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Azamara Journey moored at Southampton City Terminal looked
welcoming. Was this to be the start of a good day? Read on .......
Azamara Journey, one of two ships owned by Azamara Club
Cruises, came to this new brand in 2007 after an extensive refit
costing over $17 Million. Journey started life as the R Six being
launched in February 2000 for Renaissance Cruises. Weighing in at
a little over 30,000 tonnes, 593ft. long and 95 ft. wide and
carrying less than 700 passengers she is a small to mid size ship.
What is different is that she is definitely in the Premium Class.
The moment you step on board you are aware from the pristine
surroundings that this is not your normal run of the mill cruise
ship. Polished brass, sparkling white paint, high gloss varnish and
windows without a trace of salt stain. First stop was deck 10 and the
‘Looking Glass’ at the front of the ship. A delightful lounge with
large sloping windows to the front and picture windows to the
sides. Furnished with leather settees, tables with four individual wrap
round chairs, this is a place to relax and watch the world go by
through those huge windows and through binoculars that are on
stands for everyone’s use. At night you have a group playing or a
pianist at the keys of the black lacquered grand piano. Completing all
this is a small dance floor. The bar is tastefully set at the back.
It was here that we received our presentation with a surprise visit from the ship’s Captain, Captain Johannes Tysse, who gave a wonderful insight to cruising with Azamara. A story of how passengers on one side of the restaurant never saw the setting sun whilst those on the other saw it every evening. You can’t move the sun but the Captain can move the ship by putting it into a 360 degree turn so that everyone had a view. Now that is really listening to your passengers, something that Azamara pride themselves on. There are many questions that passengers ask the crew and one of the favourites is ‘Did the crew catch the fish themselves?’ On a trip to Iceland that is exactly what they did and I personally saw the pictures of the Captain doing the gutting. Already I wanted to cruise on this ship.
Coming out into the bright sunlight the open deck below with swimming pool and jacuzzis looked so inviting. The rows of sun loungers with white covered mattresses carrying the companies name and rolled pale blue towels. The pool bar situated in the shade to give relief from the sun whilst sipping a cold drink.
Staying on deck 10 next stop was the ‘Drawing Room’. This is exactly what it reminded me of, a drawing room in a large house with its leather chairs, polished tables and comfortable settees, an area of discreet elegance. A place to sit in quietness whilst reading a book chosen from the vast selection in the bookcases that lined the walls.
Down to deck 9 and the ‘Pool Grill’ with tables laid for 2 or 6 and wooden slated chairs suitable for sitting on in a bathing costume without getting stuck to it. This deck also houses ‘Windows Café’ the ships buffet restaurant. There is an open area at the rear so passengers can dine al fresco.
The time had now come to see some of the staterooms. Most of the staterooms have an outside view or balcony, only 26 being inside no view. There are also 6 staterooms designated as wheel chair accessible. All stateroom grades supply a tote bag, bathrobes and slippers, hair dryer, complimentary use of umbrella and binoculars, complimentary shoe-shine service, welcome basket of fruit at embarkation plus flat screen televisions and good quality toiletries.
First stop was stateroom 8091 designated a ‘Club World Owners Suite’ and one of the top staterooms on the ship. One word sums it up, Sumptuous. 560 sq. ft. of living area and a further 233 sq. ft of balcony on which you will find table, chairs and sun loungers. The living area has everything you could ask for and the bathroom has marble bath with whirlpool tub and shower. The bedroom has a large comfy queen size bed.
On to stateroom 8061 a N2 Club Continent Suite. 266 sq. ft of living area and 60 sq. ft. of balcony. Decorated in light pastel colours with curtains, carpet, settee and bed throw over in warm oranges and browns made this a very pleasant colour scheme. Lots of storage space in wardrobes, drawers and cupboards. Again the bathroom had a proper bath plus shower with wood veneer wash basin unit and shiny black top.
The last stateroom was 8025 a V1 Club Balcony Stateroom of 175 sq. ft. of living area and 40 sq. ft. of balcony. Although one of the lower grades on this ship it is bigger than balcony staterooms on many other ships. This is a stateroom that I would be comfortable in. With its queen size bed, sitting area with settee, desk/dressing unit, sliding doors to the balcony and large mirrors reflecting the light this would suit me for any length of voyage.
The front of the ship on deck 5 finds you in ‘The Cabaret’ the main entertainment lounge. The entrance is impressive with its wood panelling and columns interspaced with panels of blue and gold centred by a smaller panel of mainly gold reminiscent of a coat of arms from a bygone age. The auditoriums front 5 rows are individual chairs with the occasional table and table lamp whilst the rest is laid to tables, chairs and high stools. The bar with a beautiful wooden frontage is located at the rear.
On the same deck is the ‘Casino’ which is quite small compared with some ships but I formed the impression that the guests carried on this ship were not those whose entertainment consisted of playing fruit machines. The shops are also on this deck and consist in the main of ‘Indulgencies’ and ‘The Journey Shop’.
At the stern end is ‘Discoveries Restaurant’ and ‘Discoveries Lounge’. Discoveries is the ships main restaurant with wooden columns, brass wall lights and comfortable chairs making it an elegant restaurant in which to have an unhurried dinner. The lounge with white fireplace, book cases, display cases, regency style chairs and elegant bar is the ideal room to have that pre dinner aperitif before entering the restaurant next door. The sound of someone playing a harp drifted through the area. As I passed the atrium I found the source, a young lady seated on the stair well plucking a harp. I stood for a few minutes almost mesmerised by the sound until someone reminded me it was time for lunch. This was taken in the Aqualina Speciality dining area on deck 10 overlooking the stern of the ship. This is on one side of the ship with the other speciality restaurant ‘Three C’ on the other.
The lunch menu was mouth watering. With so many of my favourites it was almost as if the menu had been prepared just for me. After much soul searching I chose grilled Artichokes and Potato Stack followed by Lobster Bisque and as a main course Filet Mignon. I finished with the Marble Crème Brulee which was the best I have ever had on any ship. The consistency, the glaze, everything was perfect. All this was washed down by an excellent Chardonnay. I know experts say red wine-red meat, but I drink what I enjoy.
Sadly it was time to leave the ship. On going to a grassy area overlooking the Southampton Water I reflected on the ship and what it offered. There is no doubt it is true 5 star offering elegant surroundings and excellent food to those who expect that something extra. The staffs take a pride in their job. The waiter at lunch went to great lengths in explaining about the food he was serving me. He did it happily and not as a chore. Quality wine is included at lunch and dinner, bottled water, soft drinks, speciality teas and coffees together with all onboard gratuities and much more are included in the fare. The staterooms are extremely comfortable and beautifully furnished offering as standard items you only get in the top suites of other ships. There is a self service laundry. The lounges have that ‘Country Club’ air of quality. Being a smaller ship it goes to some of the more interesting ports around the world where the huge resort ships cannot go. It spends days and nights in ports so the passengers get a chance to really explore the area. Azamara listen to their customers and take note of their wishes. As the Captain said, they did a 360 degree turn so everyone could see the sunset. I noted certain words kept coming to mind, elegant and quality. This is truly a quality product, and yes, it was an excellent day.
Alan Fairfax - is a professional cruise writer for YOUR HOLIDAY TV
See Alan's images of Azamara Journey